HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police arrested a columnist for the pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily on Wednesday on suspicion of plotting to collude with a foreign country or foreign forces in another blow to the besieged newspaper .
The latest arrest came after police froze the assets of companies linked to the newspaper and arrested five executives last week, moves that are expected to force the newspaper to close this week.
Police said dozens of articles in the Apple Daily may have violated the security law, the first time authorities have targeted news articles under the legislation.
Rights groups, media organizations and Western governments have criticized the government‘s actions and expressed concern over press freedom and other rights in the Chinese-ruled city.
Police, who usually do not release the names of those arrested, said they arrested a 55-year-old man on national security grounds. A senior executive at Next Digital, which publishes Apple Daily, said an editorial editor and journalist were arrested, without identifying them. It is not known why the journalist was arrested.
A police official said they had no immediate information about a second arrest.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that criticism of last week’s raid and arrests against Apple Daily amounted to attempts to “embellish” acts endangering national security.
Apple Daily has come under increasing pressure since its owner mogul and ardent Beijing critic Jimmy Lai was arrested last year under the disputed legislation. Lai, whose assets have also been frozen under the security law, is already serving a prison term for participating in unauthorized rallies.
According to an internal memo seen by Reuters, the tabloid, which employs around 600 journalists, is expected to close permanently by Saturday.
(Written by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Gerry Doyle)